Miller faces fresh calls to resign

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Miller Mar 26 AFP British Culture Secretary Maria Miller. Picture: Paul Ellis

London -

Pressure mounted on the British minister in charge of a new press regulation system on Sunday after a Conservative Party grandee called for her resignation over Parliament's latest expenses scandal.

Norman Tebbit, a member of the upper House of Lords and the party's chairman during the days of Margaret Thatcher, slammed Culture Secretary Maria Miller as “arrogant” for the way she responded to Parliament's censure after she was found to have overclaimed on her mortgage.

“Most members of the Commons must have hoped that the scandals over fiddled expenses had at least calmed down, even if not gone away,” he wrote on a blog for the Daily Telegraph.

“Now Mrs Miller has not just reignited the flames but, by the arrogance of her response to the scandal, poured petrol on the fire. The best way out of this is for Mrs Miller to resign,” he added.

A Survation poll for the right-leaning Mail on Sunday found that 82 percent of party members believed she should quit.

On Friday, opposition Labour lawmaker Thomas Docherty wrote to Scotland Yard urging the police force to look into the minister's accommodation claims between 2005 and 2009.

On Thursday, Miller was ordered by the standards committee of the House of Commons, the lower chamber of parliament, to pay back £5 800 ($9 600) in expenses related to her mortgage and apologise for providing only the “minimum necessary” information to an inquiry into her claims.

She was roundly condemned in the media for her “perfunctory” 31-second statement to lawmakers.

But current party chairman Grant Shapps said the culture secretary should be allowed to “get on with her job” after she apologised “unreservedly” to Parliament, as ordered by the committee.

Miller is trying to introduce a new system of stringent press regulation deeply disliked by most of Fleet Street.

Following a major public inquiry into the British press in the wake of the News Of The World scandal, a cross-party plan for press regulation was agreed in October, proposing new rules and fines for errant editors.

Newspapers argue that the government's plan to underpin the system with legislation would allow politicians to interfere with the freedom of the press.

There have also been calls for an overhaul of the way complaints against MPs are dealt with, in particular the role of the Commons committee - made up of 10 MPs and three non-voting lay members - which has a final say on any penalty.

Independent commissioner Kathryn Hudson recommended that Miller repay £45 000, but the committee later cut the penalty, sparking claims from an opposition MP that Miller had put pressure on the watchdog.

Revelations about the expenses claimed by members of parliament caused a major scandal in 2009 and resulted in five members of the Commons and two members of the upper House of Lords going to jail for fraud. - Sapa-AFP

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